Ligue 1 Preview: Sochaux, Valenciennes seek survival boosts
By Football News
Sochaux return to the scene of last season's great escape as they visit Bastia in dire need of a win to boost hopes of Ligue 1 safety.
The Stade Auguste Bonal club claimed a 0-0 draw on the final day of last term in Corsica, which proved enough to ensure survival as Nancy, Troyes and Brest fell into the second tier.
Herve Renard's men will be desperate to go one better at the Stade Armand Cesari this time around.
A last-minute equaliser denied Sochaux a crucial victory over Marseille last weekend and the strugglers head into the weekend eight points adrift of 17th-placed Evian.
Valenciennes are three points above Sochaux and host a Lyon side still harbouring slim hopes of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League and keen to atone for a 2-1 derby loss to Saint-Etienne.
Evian's stunning 1-0 win over second-placed Monaco last time out significantly enhanced their prospects of remaining in the top flight.
And Pascal Dupraz's men could take another step towards safety with a victory at Lorient, who are not yet sure of their place in Ligue 1 for next term.
Six points could separate 11th and 18th by the end of the 32nd round of fixtures, but the picture at the top of the table is far clearer.
Paris Saint-Germain appear to have all but secured a second consecutive title and sit 13 points clear of Monaco.
The capital club can edge ever closer to glory by beating Reims, while Monaco will be aware they may yet come under pressure in the race for Champions League places.
Claudio Ranieri's men currently hold a nine-point advantage over fourth-placed Saint-Etienne and host a Nantes side unbeaten in four.
Saint-Etienne's immediate target is overhauling third-placed Lille, with only three points separating the two sides heading into the weekend.
Next up for Saint-Etienne is a home game against Nice, who narrowly missed out on a Champions League berth last season when finishing only three points behind Lyon.
Lille's trip to Toulouse pits two in-form teams against each other as Rene Girard's men look to make it nine league games unbeaten against a home side without a defeat in five.
Elsewhere, Bordeaux host Rennes, Guingamp meet Montpellier and bottom club Ajaccio travel to a Marseille side in the midst of a dreadful slump.
Jose Anigo's side took just two points from five games in March, a run that has left them nine points adrift of a European place and one that forward Andre Ayew attributes to Marseille's lack of experience.
"I think when you buy young players in a club like Marseille, with a lot of pressure, some players can cope with it no problem, and some others need time," Ayew told BeIN Sport.
"That's why there are a lot of ups and downs, and we need to be more consistent."